EFusion 2006

Boy has it been awhile since I’ve posted here. And today, we’re going to cover some topics that are likely of little interest to many of you reading this. But for those of you who want to learn more about the insurance industry, do I have a treat for you!
Yesterday, I returned from A.M. Best’s EFusion Conference in Boston. It’s a conference dedicated to innovative use of technology to solve business problems in the Insurance space. Speaking from a technology standpoint, there wasn’t much new. On the other hand, the ways in which certain companies are leveraging these technologies was quite interesting. Some examples:

  • Using podcasts to keep in touch with employees in (very) large companies. Used for training and announcements.
  • The use of location information (apparently now known as L.I.) to assist in catastrophe handling (ie. if an area floods and your neighbour files a claim, your insurance company may come check on your property to see if there is any damage). I found this one a bit scary as one company claimed it had adjusters onsite before an owner had arrived home from work or even knew their house was damaged.
  • Various wireless application examples. One interesting example saw a company using UI techniques from handheld gaming devices to develop wireless CRM solutions for blackberry type devices.

One of the most interesting concepts discussed at the conference was the idea of a transferrable personal health record (sound familiar). The concept is that you have a swipe card that you can take to the doctor (or emergency room if you are unconcious) which contains all important medical information about you. Medications you are on, tests you have recently had performed, allergies, etc. The unfortunate part is that the insurance company ‘owns’ those records, not the individual. Availity seems to be pushing this effort, although US healthcare is substantially different from what we have in Canada.

The other idea that could definitely change the insurance landscape was the electronic insurance exchanges. The concept here is to spread risk across multiple companies, while passing information in standardised mechanisms (see Acord for more on insurance transfer standards). It seems pretty complicated, but it would certainly change the way some of these companies are doing business.

The conference wrapped up with a panel of 5 CIO types sharing what they expect to happen over the next few years in the insurance business as it relates to IT. In summary:

  • Future projects need to focus more on business benefits and less on technology
  • More flexibility needs to be given to IT professionals to help bring new products to market in the insurance industry
  • Insurance industries are likely to spend more money on IT in the next five years than they did in the previous five years
  • COBOL is still not dead

Most of their conclusions seemed to be pretty common sense, but the panel seemed well-informed and each seemed to have a passion for technology on a certain level.
Overall, it was an interesting conference to attend. Certainly much less content than a typical technology conference, but at the same time, it was so entirely different that it seemed like I was learning new things the whole time.

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